BIO Insider – August 2021

August 2021


Welcome to the second edition of BIO’s Insider, our monthly roundup of  timely news, notes, events, and short items of interest to members. The news shorts include a look at the use of AI in the making of the documentary Roadrunner, about Anthony Bourdain; that’s a good teaser for the upcoming edition of our magazine, which will feature our annual look at biography on film.

We hope you’re enjoying our new format. And, as always, feel free to drop us a line if you have suggestions or comments.

Stay well,

Michael Burgan

BIO Conference Goes Live Again for 2022!

For 2022, BIO and the Leon Levy Center for Biography are tentatively planning to present an in-person conference, to be held May 13–15, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Watch for more details early next year.

New for 2022!
For the first time, BIO members are invited to propose panels for the 2022 BIO Conference. Follow this link for more information.


Biographer’s Battle Leads to Release of Mountbatten Diaries

Biographer Andrew Lownie’s long legal struggle to force the release of more of the personal papers of Lord and Lady Mountbatten—the subjects of his The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves—led to a partial victory in July. FULL STORY

Amazon Ebooks Come to Public Libraries

For the first time, ebooks and audio books from Amazon Publishing will be available to patrons of public libraries, thanks to an agreement reached in May between Amazon and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). FULL STORY

Use of AI in Documentary Raises Questions

In Roadrunner, the new documentary about Anthony Bourdain, viewers hear what sounds like about 45 seconds of the late chef’s voice. But after the film was released, director Morgan Neville revealed that the audio clips were actually generated using an artificial intelligence (AI) program. FULL STORY Generates Millions for Indie Bookstores, the online alternative to Amazon geared toward independent bookstores, announced that it has given $15 million to U.S. bookstores since its launch early in 2020. FULL STORY


Foreword INDIES

Three biographies took prizes in the Foreword INDIES awards. The Gold winner for Biography was The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook by Suzanne Evans; the Silver winner in the category was Cyrus The Great: Conqueror, Liberator, Anointed One by Stephen Dando-Collins; and winning the bronze was Fearless: A. Bartlett Giamatti and the Battle For Fairness in America by Neil Thomas Proto. The awards are sponsored by Foreword Reviews magazine and recognize the best books from small, independent, and university presses, as well as by self-published authors.

Otto Gründler Book Prize

Marion Turner won the Otto Gründler Book Prize for her Chaucer: A European Life. The award, given by the Western Michigan University Medieval Institute, comes with a $1,000 prize.


The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Award program honors independently published books for both content and design. The deadline to enter is December 15, 2021. Learn more here.

Research Tip

Booknotes Archives

Here’s a research tip of a different sort: If you’re interested in hearing insights from biographers about their craft and individual books, C-SPAN’s Booknotes has an archive of televised interviews from 1989 to 2004. The biographers featured include BIO Award-winners Jean Strouse, Ron Chernow, and David Levering Lewis. C-SPAN itself is a treasure trove of authors’ appearances, not to mention a remarkable research site. You can easily search 270,026 hours of content at its site.


Choose the Right Social Media Platform for You

When promoting yourself and your work, should you use Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or something else? And how should you use these leading social media platforms? Writing for BookBub, Diana Urban looks at some of the things to consider when choosing social media apps.

Beware of writers who tell you how hard they work. (Beware of anybody who tries to tell you that.) Writing is indeed often dark and lonely, but no one really has to do it.
—Richard Ford


Odyssey: Young Charles Darwin, the Beagle, and the Voyage That Changed the World

By Tom Chaffin
sold to Pegasus
by Elise Capron at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

The Progressive

by Stephen Fried
sold to Hachette Books
by David Black at David Black Literary Agency

More titles HERE


Given the proliferation of author events that can be easily accessed online, and which are often archived after the event, The Insider lists upcoming member events so other members can take part live and provides links to past events that have been recorded. Previously, those archived videos would have been featured in “Member News and Notes.” Look for this special section for as long as the pandemic disrupts the presentation of in-person author events.


August 18: Raquel Ramsey will discuss Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story at a webinar hosted by the Commemorative Air Force of Dallas. Register here.


Judy Polumbaum and Brett Dakin took part in a virtual event hosted by Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa. Brett also took part in a panel discussion at Comic-Con. As we reported last month, his American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason was nominated by Comic-Con for the Eisner Award for Best Comics-related Book of 2021.

Gabriella Marie Kelly-Davies took part in a virtual book launch for her Breaking Through the Pain Barrier: The Extraordinary Life of Dr. Michael J. Cousins.

Candice Millard discussed her career at a virtual event hosted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Kai Bird discussed his The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter as part of a virtual event on Book TV.


See what these members have been up to—releasing new titles, giving interviews, writing articles—by going HERE. And be sure to send us your news!

Kai Bird
Tom Chaffin
Ron Chernow
Stephen Dando-Collins
Rebecca Donner
Jack El-Hai
Anya Jabour
Brian Jay Jones
Gabriella Marie Kelly-Davies
Heidi Tyline King

Heath Lee
Marc Leepson
Ann McCutchan
Eugene Meyer
Patrick Parr
Carl Rollyson
Susan Ronald
Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Carol Sklenicka
David O. Stewart


This month’s new releases include two books by BIO members: All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner and The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the Court of St. James’s 1938–1940 by Susan Ronald. To see the full list, go HERE.


This month’s paperback releases include The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A. N. Wilson, winner of the 2021 Plutarch Award. To see the full list, go HERE.


Follow this link to see the complete obituaries.

Historian Athan Theoharis, whose work focused on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, died July 3, in Syracuse, New York. He was 84.

Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who once worked for John F. Kennedy and later met and wrote about his assassin, died July 7, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was 92.

Carol Easton, a biographer of artists in four different fields, died June 17, in Venice, California. She was 87.

Margaret Hooks, a journalist and author who profiled the lives and works of many artists, died July 19, in Jávea, Spain. She was 76.


BIO Offers Coaching

Whatever state your biography’s in—vague idea, proposal, well underway—BIO’s experienced biographers can help. BIO offers a one-hour coaching session via phone or email for the member discounted rate of $60. (Coaches may charge more for subsequent hours.) Learn more about the program HERE.


Discounted BIO Membership Rate

Are you a student, or do you know one who is interested in biography? BIO now has a special student membership rate. Visit the BIO website to find out more.


For The Latest News In Biography Quarterly

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Holly Van Leuven

Consulting Editor
James McGrath Morris

Copy Editor
Margaret Moore Booker